Yesterday we talked about being a church that puts God’s Truth in a place where we need to respond. But responding obviously has a few different options. I can choose to reject what I know (now) that I need to act on or I can choose to respond, but do it “later” or I can deflect it by either saying to myself, “this doesn’t apply to me” or “in normal circumstances I might need to do something different, but my situation is unique” or “I know someone who should hear this, I should figure out how to help them with this.” Reject it; respond “later” (which often means never); or deflect it – these are some of the most common responses when we are approached with new or uncomfortable Truth.
I have a love/hate relationship with the way our church “does” church. I love it because I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’ve been a part of some amazing churches and I would have very little negative to say about those experiences – the Bible was taught, people were growing, and lost people were found/saved by Jesus. I think the issue is more with me, if I didn’t want to apply or do anything with the messages, I found ways to hide or ignore it. Now, to be fair, I know lots of people at Grace Church who hide and ignore the teaching also. However, I think it’s a lot more difficult to do. So, I love that our church is about real life and I love the creativity and willingness to try lots of different things with the Bible/theme/Word as the guide (not traditions, formulas etc).
The following blog post is quite different from my normal fare as it’s quite technical and “heady”, however, I think it’s important for us to understand biblical passages in light of current events. I asked a theologian friend, Pete Lackey about how my passage from this past weekend on “turning the other cheek” and retaliation would apply (if it applies at all) to a global situation like the ISIS killings and brutality. What follows is a more complete understanding of the Matthew passage in its biblical context. It also may provide a lens to look at assault and war.
This weekend I have a ton of verses to cover and many of the verses have some historical and theological significance that I’m not able to fully get into in a 35 minute sermon. Hence, this blog post. Here are a few of the thoughts I wanted to share and either wasn’t able to or wasn’t able to go as deep as I would have preferred.
In Matthew 5:17ff – Jesus is both addressing critics that wondered if Jesus’ teaching was negating the teaching of both the Old Testament and of their own religious leaders. Jesus makes it clear that not only did Jesus respect the Old Testament teaching, but He was going to ensure that the fulness of God’s intention would be realized. Part of the problem however was that the religious leaders of Jesus day were not only teaching only half (the external aspects) of what God meant but they were also picking and choosing what they were emphasizing and what they were downplaying. Jesus was communicating clearly that God meant more than just an external adherence to the laws but a true righteousness of the heart. In fact without a heart change, the religious leaders themselves were going to miss out on true life.
Many of you know I grew up attending church. In fact I can’t remember not being a part of a church. That being said, “witnessing”, “sharing our faith”, “evangelizing” etc etc was always referred to as an action that Christians should do. And the reality was, most of us were either too afraid, too preoccupied or just plain too lazy to do it. Plus many of us assumed that is the kind of thing you did when you were “super-spiritual”. I mean the idea that an average, everyday kind of Christian would share their faith was a foreign concept. And so we busy-ed ourselves in church activities and since we all (it seemed) took an oath that none of us had to do it and we wouldn’t make each other feel guilty about it, we simply didn’t do anything. That was until the once a year or so that the traveling evangelist would come into town or the pastor was motivated to do a sermon on it — but since it was only once a year, it was easy to forget about it and as long as none of us asked each other about it, we could hang on for another year!
The “tithe” has a fair amount of baggage in our evangelical culture. Here are a few of the issues that arise with it: 1. is the tithe an expectation in the New Testament? aren’t we living in the age of grace, so why would God expect it of us? 2. Wasn’t the tithe used to care for the poor and other people, and today doesn’t our taxes cover those things; so how much are we supposed to give? 3. We give a tithe but not to the church, we add up all the things we give to missionaries, charities, church etc and as long as it adds up close to 10% or more, we feel good about that.